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Kiwi Ferns captain Krystal Rota.

Newly appointed Kiwi Ferns captain Krystal Rota hopes the latest changes in leadership offer a level of stability for the national side ahead of the 2021 World Cup.

Rota will lead a new-look Kiwi Ferns for their one-off Test match against a Fetu Samoa invitational side at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday in the only international fixture scheduled this year.

The Kiwi Ferns announced their third head coach in as many seasons in September with assistant Ricky Henry elevated to the lead role after the departure of Justin Morgan.

Henry will debut 11 rookies in the clash with several incumbent players including Karyn Murphy medal winner Amber Hall, Georgia Hale, Charntay Poko and Nita Maynard unavailable through injury and COVID-19 restrictions.

Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry.
Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry. ©

"We've had a new coach every year for a while now and that makes it hard to get any sort of consistency across the board," Rota told

"You're constantly starting from scratch and there's no progression each year so it makes it hard.

"Ricky is very different to Morgs, they approach things differently. Morgs was very direct with what he wanted and we had to do everything the right way from the start.

"That tough love is good in its own way but only the older girls could really appreciate it and handle it.

"Ricky gives us a bit more leeway and with a few girls on debut this week I think that's important, to not shy them away.

"He's very open to all questions and he breaks it right down when he answers."

Rota will take over the captaincy reigns from long-serving star Honey Hireme-Smiler, who will also play her first representative game of the season after missing the NRLW with a knee injury.

Rota, 35, made her Kiwi Ferns debut in 2016 and was eager to lead an inexperienced squad chosen on form in local and domestic competitions across New Zealand this season.

"I was very emotional when I got the call, I had to ask him if I was dreaming," Rota said.

"It's a massive honour and privilege. I'll take my role seriously and hopefully do a good job.

"There's a lot of newbies and girls who have come from grassroots this year. They're very new to the game but one thing I've noticed is their willingness to learn.

"They're all ears and concentration levels are high. Nerves are also high with most of them experiencing their first time in a professional space so it's important we support them through that.

"One thing I've respected what the coaches have done is with the debutantes is that they've been at all the domestic and grassroots games looking for talent, who's in form and who is deserving.

"There's been no selections based on anything but who's performing well, not who's played well a couple of years ago or who's been in the team previously.

"It's based on who has been playing good footy this season and will build a good foundation ahead of the World Cup next year."

HERSDAY: 20 years in the future

Rota was one of 17 incumbent Warriors players from their 2019 campaign who missed the NRLW this season due to family and work commitments but was pleased with how the makeshift squad came together under Jillaroos coach Brad Donald.

"It was hard to watch from afar, I had a FOMO (fear of missing out) watching everything but it was definitely the best decision for myself and the kids that I stayed home," she said.

"One thing I missed was seeing the culture they created amongst themselves and just wishing I could've been a part of that. Seeing how well they bonded and close they became.

"Culture in a team is one of the most important things. You have to get that balance right.

"If the girls who drove that are in future teams it will be a huge win for the Warriors."

New Zealand 

Krystal Rota, Kere Matua, Harata Butler, Amber Kani, Kararaina Wira-Kohu, Maitua Feterika, Christyl Stowers, Sharliz White, Katelyn Vaha'akolo, Karli Hansen, Jules Newman, Charlotte Scanlan, Crystal Tamarua, Kanyon Paul, Mya Terehia Hill-Moana, Autumn Stephens, Honey Hireme-Smiler, Shannnon Muru, Lavinia Tauhalaliku.

Fetu Samoa Invitational 

Masuisui Pauaraisa, Aieshaleigh Smalley, Nina Foaese, Ricshay Lemanu, Vaanessa Molia-Fraser, Cassie Siataga, Onjeurlina Leiataua, Rowena Koonwaiyou-Meleisea, Ruth Vae, Lani Latoa-Williams, Shannon Laamauga Leota, Summer Kapsin, Clementine Varea, Leianne Tufuga, Jhana Magele, Pauline Hunt, Makayla Eli, Mela Maxine-Vili, Glory Aiono, Keilamarita Pouri-Lane.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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